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Northeast Ohio pediatric doctors contending with 'enormous wave' of sick children

“We have seen an enormous strain on the [Emergency Department] volume just from the amount of kids coming in of all ages.”

CLEVELAND — Infections of RSV are spiking across the country and it’s no different in Northeast Ohio. RSV is the most widespread among children and then flu and COVID are not far behind.

Dr. Ethan Leonard is the Chief Medical Officer for University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. He says cases of RSV are higher right now than they usually are this time of year.

Also, Dr. Leonard tells 3News that UH Rainbow Babies is currently at 95% capacity - the majority of those 200-plus children are there for respiratory illness. For perspective, around this time, they are usually at about 80% capacity. Dr. Leonard says hospital staff has expanded intensive care by creating new space. However, keep in mind, most children with RSV are discharged fairly quickly unless their symptoms escalate.

“What's going on right now takes us back a few years to beginning of covid,” said Dr. Leonard. “If you can avoid being in lots of enclosed spaces with lots of other people right now [that’s a good idea].”

At Cleveland Clinic Children's:

  • RSV positivity rate for children aged 0-5 is 37%. Among elementary-age children (6-12 years old), the positivity rate for RSV is 18%.
  • Influenza A positivity rate is 23% in school-age children (6-17 years old) and 11% overall.
  • SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate 8.5% overall.

Dr. Purva Grover is the Director of Pediatric Emergency Departments at the Cleveland Clinic.

“You have to see and take care of the patient just like they were your own, it's hard [and] it's tough, it's physically and mentally exhausting at many given times given the high enormous disease burden we have right now,” said Dr. Grover. “It's overwhelming right now in so many ways and remember that whoever you are seeing in terms of providers and physicians and nurses...the healthcare system is also hurting…so be patient with us.”

With the holidays on the horizon, Dr. Leonard is telling parents this: “I think it's okay to inquire if you are going to a dinner whether anyone has colds or not, because some of these viruses in an older person could simply be a cold but if you have a young child particularly an infant these viruses obviously can cause a more significant respiratory infection.

And what about travel?

“I wouldn't be encouraging people to fly with young children right now, particularly because there's not a mandate for people to be masked on airplanes at this point.”

Doctors say handwashing is crucial, don't socialize your child if they are showing any signs of sickness, don't ignore the signs, get vaccines, and call your doctor with any concern. If you child is exhibit respiratory distress – seek medical attention immediately.

“We have seen an enormous strain on the [Emergency Department] volume just from the amount of kids coming in of all ages.”

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